Book 10 - The Shattered Axe - Chapter 18: Motive of Deception

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httyyd
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This will be the first time in a long time that I posted in back to back weeks.  Work has gotten really slow, so I took advantage of it this week.  Almost hit my goal of posting on Friday, only by an hour.

 

I won't say much because you all are caught up with what has been happening with me.

 

So, I hope you enjoy the chapter!

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Book 10 - The Shattered Axe

Chapter 17 - Back on Track

 

The Jarl Mollerson Mystery Series

All Chapter Links
 

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

Proud Leader and fellow member of:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

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The Shattered Axe

 

Chapter 18

Motive of Deception

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         Dot begins, “It started a few months before the start of the Inaugural Inter-Archipelago Pack Racing Series.  I began to see less and less of Rebecca.  She and I had been in servitude to Chief Gladstone because of the debt our parents still owed him.  They were working it out in the mines but were killed in an accident.”

         Annabeth is the first to give her condolences then the rest of us follow.

         “Thank you for that.  It has been hard to live on our own since then, but we would help around Gladstone’s office, being his assistants, to continue working off our parent’s debt.  But Rebecca grew more and more disenchanted with working with Gladstone.  She thought that we should have our own lives and decide our own way of life.  I kept telling her that will we get to do that after we complete the work of the debt.  While I knew we would have to work for some years, Rebecca was impatient.  It was okay when our parents were here, but once that was gone, I could not comfort my sister in the same way to keep her going.  And because of Rebecca’s ideas, she continually tried to sabotage Gladstone in all that he did.  It started out as jokes and gags but turned to something more suddenly one night.  She found out something about Gladstone and was going to try and discredit him.  Rebecca would not tell me what the information was because she thought I would turn in my own sister.  Though she should know me better than that, I knew her path would only add to the debt we would have to pay off, resulting in both of us eternally working for Gladstone.  When Rebecca was caught trying to sell the information to a group of strangers, Gladstone had enough and sent her to work in the mines, treating her less than fairly.  By the way, these strangers I found out to be a group calling themselves the Realm of Khaos.  Gladstone then used us against each other.  Rebecca had to take ill treatment so that I wouldn’t get it and then I had to keep working for Gladstone to stop him from treating her so badly.”

         “Things settled down for a while.  But once the work was done for the day, she would vanish.  Some nights she would not come home, yet she would show up the next day to work in the mines.  I didn’t know what was going on.  I thought she had finally learned her lesson.  I was wrong.  She started sabotaging the island’s exports.  No one ever got hurt, but news was getting around that Gladstone could not control his own people, driving away business and that means everything to us.  One day Rebecca did not come back to work in the mines, yet the attacks kept occurring.  They happened so frequently that Rebecca would toy with them by letting them think they would capture her.  She would always escape.  Gladstone stopped telling me anything about her, so I lost track.  That is why I joined Jason Ketell’s team.  With Gladstone distracted with trying to catch Rebecca, he allowed me more leeway in where I could go.  Because of my loyalty to the debt, he put more trust in me to have more freedom.  I took advantage of this to see if I could find more about what Rebecca was doing.  Knowing that the racing series was going to start soon, I could use that as an opportunity to search other islands for Rebecca as well as stay close to Gladstone to still be working for him.  The Iron Conclave did not have an official entry to the series, but Gladstone took Jason Ketell under his wing so to speak.  It was more or less just allowing me and other Iron Vikings to be on Jason’s team, because no one even other Outcasts wanted to be on his team.  It is a lot to put up with, but it is a chance to do something new and different.  From there, I met a whole host of new vikings and tribes, including you guys.  I’ve heard about your adventures and other races through the grapevine, so I only knew about you through word of mouth.  To see you in person, I feel like I am talking to living legends.  What you did to help the people of Izar is to be truly commended.”

         It is still strange to be highly thought of by some people in this archipelago.  I was just doing what was right in helping my friend, Garth.  Now I know what Hiccup must have felt like after defeating the Red Death.

         Dot asks, “So, now your turn.  Where did you see Rebecca?”

         Annabeth and I glance at each other before I start talking.  Dot is innocent as to what exactly Gladstone was doing to her sister.  Dot may know that her sister is going down the wrong path, but the details may be tough to swallow.  I tell Dot what happened the night Gladstone came to Berserker Island, but I do not leave anything out.

         It is an emotional thing to hear how Gladstone had Rebecca chained, had pushed her around, and more than likely beat her.  If I were in Dot’s position, I would desire to be told the facts of what happened without any “softening of the blow.”  Dot remained strong, only showing some tears in her eyes.  Yet, when I told her what Rebecca later did on Berk, betraying my crew and friends’ trust, Dot’s emotion of anger towards Gladstone turned to sadness and regret towards her sister.   Even worse, she is probably thinking she is failing her parents.

         It is like she does not want to admit what her sister is becoming.  She does not answer my recounting of events, merely keeps her head down.

         So, Annabeth changes the subject, “We came to learn more about Gladstone.  Thank you for giving some context as to how you are connected to Gladstone and how you sister fits in, but now maybe you can help us figure out the motive for why someone would want him out of the picture.”

         Dot collects her feelings, taking a deep breath, she replies, “Yes, I will do what I can.”

         Annabeth puts forward one more question, “May we look around these rooms?”

         “Sure, go right ahead.”

         Annabeth motions to Cazi to help her search while leaving me the opportunity to question Dotta.

         I begin with an easy question, “Did Chief Gladstone have any enemies?”

         “Since the Iron Conclave had isolated itself from any other islands for generations, it would be hard to have an enemy when they don’t know that we are here.  The only ‘outside’ help was our own people farming surrounding islands for food.  However, in recent years with the emergence of the news of training dragons and their ever-increasing market for personal and tribal protection, Chief Gladstone saw the profit growth potential in supplying iron for weapons and armor to use against the Dragon Hunters and other powerful groups.  Gladstone owns one of the largest mines on the island supplemented by other smaller mines, so he is – or was – in prime position to lead this island to the greatest heights it has ever seen in its history.”

         Straight off, Dotta is a very intelligent young woman with an impressive knowledge of vocabulary for one as young as she is.  Although, she acts older than Rebecca since it sounds like Dotta was in charge or raising her sister, or at least took the responsibility to do so, yet they are both twins.  Dotta is trying to keep them both safe while Rebecca wants her freedom now.

         I follow up on her last comment, “How did Gladstone become chief?”

         “By now I think you know we do things very differently than what you are used to.  Business of exports and imports means life to us.  We went from an island barely able to fend for itself let alone feed itself to a roaring economy where everyone has enough food for themselves from high profile vikings to even a lowly bondservant.  We do not have enough farmland to sustain our island.  It is a wonder we ever did for as long as we did.  So, we trade our iron mainly for food supplies.  The more iron we mine the better off our economy is to sustain life.  Therefore, he who controls our iron, controls the island.”

         “Gladstone’s mine started from a small claim that did not make much.  But little by little he invested all that he had into his mine and then used the profits to start buying smaller bigger claims.  He did this all the way up to being promoted to chief.  Gladstone became the youngest viking in our history to accomplish this feat in one of the shortest periods possible.  He has – or was rather, that still trips me up – been serving as chief for over twenty years.  To stay chief, you have to maintain your output of iron, whether it is from a single mine or multiple.  Those who own mines are comparable to the Berserkian High Council or Berk’s Elders.  We have no politicians in the traditional sense, yet the mine owners act as such to maintain our influx of imports to maintain and grow our supply of food for our island.  We depend that much on exporting our iron.  So, who better to be in charge of the island?  Only the business leaders who know how to maximize our import margins.”

         No offense to Dotta, but she comes across as a naïve viking.  When she talks, she obliterates that label.  To know this much about how your island operates is very impressive.  I do not know this much about Berserker Island, not even Berk and I grew up there.  Yet, one has to be this informed if they are to be successful on this island.

         While those who are in servitude are often among the most overlooked individuals, they are often the most knowledgeable because they have access to information that others wouldn’t even think they did, especially the assistant to the chief.  Come to think of it, calling Dotta naïve may be more of a compliment for her innocent portrayal of her persona is a front to keep her eyes and ears open to get ahead on this island, especially as a servant to the chief of the island.

         Though you may know of someone who is quiet and could be found alone often, they still have eyes and ears.  Regardless of how you perceive someone to be, be careful what you say and do around someone like Dotta.  This bias against people you might overlook of everyday life is amplified on an island like this.  They are playing Maces and Talons while you are playing a thumb war with yourself.

         Be wary of the quiet and alone viking because they quickly came to power and prestige like one such Chief Gladstone did.

         All this said, my brain drifts off into the thought:  If Dotta is putting on facade she is naïve, does she know more than what she is letting on about her sister and her activities?  Could she be the one giving the information to her sister to give to Khaos?  While she may have loyalty to her island, Gladstone gave her no reason to believe in him for what he has done to her family.  Needless to say, this is a pretty good motive.  But this is my mystery mind going off down a rabbit hole.

         I move on to the next question, “Since Gladstone is a businessman at heart, besides Berk and Berserker Island, where did Gladstone already do business and where did he plan on expanding?”

         “The places where Gladstone was in talks with the people were the same places where a Dragon Race was.  That is why it was convenient for me to do more on my own while still staying close to Gladstone.  Since I caused no trouble compared to my sister, he allowed me to do more things than what a normal bondservant could do.

         “Did Gladstone have any talks planned for the host of the next race at Aberdeen Island?”

         “I would assume so, but he hadn’t said anything to me about it.  I wouldn’t know until the middle of the week if I would need to prepare any papers for the host island to sign for us to start exporting.  Guess now I won’t have to prepare anything.  Come to think of it, after I clean out these rooms, what will happen to me?  With Gladstone gone, what happens to my parent’s debt to him?”

         “If it is not too much of a personal question, what was your parents’ debt?”

         Dot thought for a moment before answering, “My father and Gladstone were partners in starting the claim, though before that they were rivals.  My father owned the land and Gladstone knew how to mine a profit.  Their rivalry lasted for years, even before Rebecca and I were born.  Then when my family fell on hard times, we wanted our father to sell to Gladstone so we could stay afloat.  He could be partners so we could all reap the benefits.  But my father had his pride and didn’t want to sell like everyone else.  That was until the crops were hit hard that same season.  Now between starvation and swallowing his pride, my father went to Gladstone for help.  He knew Gladstone was the only one able to find viable seed that could be planted and harvested before winter.  With everyone else giving up on the profit of the harvest, father saw this as an opportunity to finally get ahead of everyone else.  Now Gladstone didn’t want to trade the seed for the weather still did not support a crop for a harvest.  The window was extremely narrow to get a harvest in.  Instead, Gladstone wanted the mine claim and the harvest.  Reluctant about the deal, my father agreed.”

         Dotta continues, “My parents left to go to plant the seed on another island because all the land fertile enough for farming already had a dying or spoiled crop on it.  There was nothing left for the season.  My parents had to chance the ship ride in the choppy and weather ridden waters.  They never made it.  After we got word, the seed that was already on that island from a later trip was nowhere near enough to call the harvest profitable.  The bulk of Gladstone’s seed was lost in the shipwreck plus other supplies that Gladstone provided.  In addition to the profit loss, his investment was gone.  Though him and my father were rivals, they did have respect for each other.  Gladstone offered me and my sister his home, his protection, and a portion of his profits from the mine claim if me and my sister would go into servitude for ten years to pay off the debt of the losses, he incurred that season.”

         Cazi interjects, “Sounds like he got the better end of that deal.”

         Annabeth also chimes in, disgusted at what she heard, “After just losing your parents, he had the gull to blackmail you into becoming his slaves so he could recoup what he lost?  The profit from the mining empire he built would pay that back tenfold, not to mention that he made it to chieftain.  You were bullied into working for him when you were the rightful heirs to the mine let alone possibly chiefesses had you held on to the mine and the success of the empire been yours.”

         Dotta stood up and became defensive, “What would you choose then, huh?  The uncertainty of raising your sister all on your own when you have no clue how to do that, or the safety and security knowing that you won’t have to worry about food or shelter and would have someone to teach you how to survive.”

         Dotta sighed and apologized for the outburst, however, remained steadfast in her choice, “May I remind you that our way of life is much different than yours.  You may see it as slaves, but we see it as a means to make the best of a terrible situation, helping our neighbor pay back what they promised.  When someone works off the debt, at that point, they would have learned a trade, made connections in the community that they can use after their completed time, and forged a reputation for good business to be able to make a life on their own.”

         I back up my wife, “What we mean is that no one should be forced to be a servant.  If a debt needs to be paid, then both works together to make sure they both get the most out of each other’s time.  The viking in debt can choose however they want to pay off the debt and the other allows them the needed time to complete what work they choose.  Each has the freedom to go about their lives as they see fit without having to conform to someone else’s mold based on a forced destiny.  Vikings should have the free will to choose what they want to be.”

         Dotta acknowledges our view, yet maintains her stance, “I can understand that, but all of us in the Iron Conclave have bought into this way of life and have accepted it for many generations.  With the emergence of Gladstone, we were just starting to reach out and contact other islands to improve our overall way of life.  But as any viking in this archipelago can attest to, the one thing that is universal, vikings are stubborn in their own ways.  Patience is needed to progress on both sides, or else madness and turmoil will reign supreme.  We must find the order and balance in the world, or else no one will win.”

         I move on with the questioning, “So, who will succeed Gladstone if the chieftain relies on owning the most iron mines to be the chief?”

         “I’m not entirely sure,” Dotta replies.  “I’m sure the other owners will try to get it for themselves.  They will squabble over this for a while.”

         “Who will lead in the meantime?”

         “As long as output of iron at least plateaus if not continues to rise, we will be run through the owners as a collective.  But as it stands, they have their own interests.  So, until output dips, they most likely won’t make a choice unless they can agree on something that will make them a profit too.”

         Cazi quips, “I guess selfish politics are the same no matter where you go.  When people are out for themselves, nothing progresses.  Until everyone gets a piece of the action will they decide anything.  When success comes, they each will take full credit for it afterwards.  But if it doesn’t work, they pick someone to take the rap for it while they get off scot free.”

         I begin a new line of questioning, “What was the last contact you had with your sister?  Though, wait a second.  After I say that, I answer my own question:  You haven’t seen her in months, so let me word it a different way.  Do you remember any time after she went missing her sending you some form of communication?”

         Again, she waits to give a thoughtful response, “Actually, yes she did.  I had forgotten all about that.”  She walks over to a desk opposite the one she was cleaning out.  “This is my desk.”

         She searches for a moment, moving around papers and books before she finds what she is looking for, “My ledger, where I keep track of Gladstone’s appointments and meetings.”

         She turns to a specific page and hands me a note.  Taking it, I read out loud for Annabeth and Cazi to hear:

 

Dot

         I have a plant to get you away from Gladstone.  Hear me out.  I know you don’t want to leave but Gladstone is never going to let you or I out of the debt.  Why should he?  Well, I won’t argue now.  We’ll probably do that later.  I’m on to something that could ruin Gladstone and give us the freedom we deserve.  I’ll talk soon, probably before the race at Aberdeen.

Rebecca

 

         I turn to Dot to ask when she got the note, “Last week at Berk during the Archery contest.”

         I am taken aback why she did not think to mention that before.  And it is quite a specific time.

         Then again, I tell myself, “It is the classic of:  I never asked.”

         Dotta anticipates my next question by saying, “Rebecca has always wanted to take me with her.  For as much as we disagree on things, we are still sisters and still love each other.  The care we have for the other is the sole reason we are doing what we do.  We all that we have left in this world.  We just come at the problem in very different ways and beliefs, but we both want the same outcome.”

         We all hear a knock on the office door, a man enters, “Pardon the intrusion, but you are needed Dotta.”

         “Alright,” Dotta seems a bit surprised but leaves while saying, “Excuse me,” to us.

         Being a bondservant, I would imagine there is very little leeway waiting to respond to a request and leaving right then.

         Dotta went with the viking and shut the door.  Annabeth and Cazi come over to me to convene on the clues we have found.

         Right before Annabeth is about to speak, I raise my finger up to my mouth.  Quietly going over to the door, my paranoid Mystery Conqueror mind cracks the door open.  On one is listening in, but I see Dotta and the viking going over where Dagur and Heather went, which I find odd.

         I return to the girls, shaking my head to signal no one was there eavesdropping.

         Annabeth softly speaks in a hushed tone just to be on the same side, “I don’t trust her.”

         I answer, keeping my voice just above a whisper, “Glad I’m not the only one.”

         Cazi perks up a bit at my remark and so whispers, “I though you would be the one who says that you do.”

         “While that would normally be true,” I state.  “The fact of the matter is we are looking for a motive of murder.  Even if Dotta is fully telling the truth, she just gave herself and her sister more than enough motive to kill Gladstone.  With him gone, the sisters are free from the debt they owe and can move on with their lives.  Dot says it herself.  They love each other to the point each is trying to get the other to freedom.  What line are they willing to cross to accomplish this?”

         Annabeth responds, “My bet is on Rebecca, especially since she is mixed up with The Realm of Khaos.  But Dot’s demeanor is the same when we first met Rebecca and we all know where that led.”

         Cazi crosses her arms and furrows her brow, “Something for me doesn’t match up.  Why did Dot conveniently forget to mention before when she says she had not seen her sister in months yet heard from her last week, during the Berk festivities of all things?  She would have to know that was an important detail, knowing our friendship with Hiccup and the gang.  After what we told her Rebecca did on Berk, this important detail would have been nice to know before.  I know ‘seeing’ her sister in person is different than ‘hearing’ from her sister via a note.  But why would Dot be that specific in her word choice?”

         I nod, “Dot’s knowledge of politics tells me she would know how to hide the reality while still sounding genuine.  Annabeth is right.  The last time we trusted someone from this island, look what happened?  Well-.”

         “That’s not all,” Cazi interrupts as was about to ask them what they found in the rooms.  “Dot’s description of ‘Viking Stubborness’ sounds and awful lot like Mala’s description The Defenders of Khaos’ mission.  Something is very off about Dotta.”

         “Nice catch,” I commend.  “I did not notice that.  I will say that when I first heard that, most tribes think similarly about balance and order.  However, to be worded in that specific way is extremely sus, considering your very point, Cazi.”

         “Would you like to know what we found?” Annabeth suggests.

         “Yes, I was about to ask that question before I was interrupted by Cazi’s brilliant catch.”

         Annabeth begins, “We found various maps of islands, some with a check, some with an ‘X’.  What they all have in common is that they each host a Dragon Race, and the ones with a check each have an important connection…  Each has a previous metal or alloy that can be used in making steel.  And guess which island has the biggest source of the main component in steel?”

         I answer, “The – Iron – Conclave.”

         “But wait, there’s more,” Cazi puts her hand up.  “From Gladstones notes:”

         Cazi reads from her own notebook that she used to copy what the girls found:

         Our iron is valuable in how it is mined with precision as well as refined into metal suitable for weapons and armor.

         Steel is a very valuable resource, one that can rival Gronckle Iron if made from a durable alloy.  What would happen if Gronckle Iron is paired with our iron?

         Using Gronckle Iron will not do.  We need something that is like Gronckle Iron but can be more easily made without needing dragons, anyone could make this alloy.  But there is something about our iron that makes it rival any Gronckle Iron.  I must keep that a secret.

         If I can mass produce Iron Conclave steel, then I can sell the weapons, armor, and instruments to any number of tribes.  The trick now is to figure out who to sell to.  Maybe to the tribes I am exporting to?  But then they might figure it out and try to make it for themselves.

 

         Cazi finishes, “And there are more and more notes like this scattered about papers in these rooms.  Either Dotta is oblivious to what Gladstone was working on by being too preoccupied with her sister, or she knows exactly what he was working on but did not know how to use the information so left it.”

         Annabeth is even more suspicious, “Or she knew what Gladstone was planning, knew she would never get what she wanted with him in the way, had him killed or did it herself, for she is playing all of us like her sister did and they are both in this together.”

         “A lot of speculation,” I calm down the girls.  “But a lot of good clues.  These were the answers I was looking for to get started.  We now have leads to follow up on.  The main reason for coming was to find a motive for Gladstone’s murder.  We found it.  Blackmail.  If we can submit more doubt about Samantha being unanimously guilty, then we can more solidly win her case.  It sounds like both Dotta, and Rebecca were on Berk the day of the murder.  But Dotta has a near airtight alibi being on Jason’s team at the time of the murder.  Then again, we will need to check with Valka to confirm the location of everyone in the race and on Berk at the time of the murder.”

         Cazi sighs, taking a deep breath, “At the moment, a blackmail motive could incriminate a lot of people by the way Gladstone operated.  Just look of these leads and the potential backstabbing – No pun intended – that could have happened.  The sisters, the other iron mine owners, and whatever the Khaos Vikings want.  And there could even be more.”

         I nod, though my eyes widen at the intricate web of characters forming a line to take Gladstone out of the picture for their own game, “At least we know more about him and the motive, which is why we came.  Also, that Rebecca was not the one Aiyana had described, but that it was Dotta.”

         The door opened and in came Dotta.

         Cazi echoes, “Speaking of who.”

         After turning to see her come in the door, Dotta’s gaze is a stare at the floor as she leans on the door behind her.

         Curious, I ask, “Is everything alright?”

         Dotta began to mumble something, although I could not understand what it is.

         Annabeth questions in a cautiously but wanting to help tone, “Did something happen?  You are very pale.”

         “I’m…  I’m…  I am…,” Dotta began nevertheless struggled speak as if speechless from something.  She finally found the words she was looking for, “I am the chief…  The other owners made me Chieftess!”

         The three in my crew all look at each other, all thinking the same thing, “Maybe this is all part of her plan.”

         Is Dotta stunned by her freedom or relishing in the deception she is acting out?